Is hunting Immoral?

Is hunting Immoral?
robertshuman
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Posted May 18, 2009 - 5:46 PM:
Subject: Is hunting Immoral?
I recently took a few days off to go turkey hunting, and when one of my friends heard that I was going hunting he became upset. My friend went on to tell me how immoral hunting is, and that he was surprised that I would do such a thing. I personally have never thought that hunting was immoral, and have been hunting since I was a boy. My friend got me thinking about it and I couldn't pin down exactly why people think that hunting is immoral? To me hunting is just another sport, or bonding activity. So my question to you is why is hunting immoral or moral?
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Posted May 18, 2009 - 7:03 PM:

Tigers hunt, and we do not call them immoral, but they are generally hunting for food to survive. Children play 'hunt the thimble' and we do not call them immoral, but there is no death involved. If you are playing a game of killing for entertainment, then you have the innocence neither of the child, nor of the tiger. If you shoot turkeys with a camera, no one will complain.
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Posted May 18, 2009 - 7:04 PM:

Well a bonding experience involving the slaughter of other conscious living creatures does have a hint of immorality about it.

The upside is that you aren't hunting humans, and a quick clean kill is rarely very painful for the animal.
Still, if you want to remove immorality from the sport, do deer hunting for a couple days with a few good buds and some REALLY crappy food. Your motivation is to kill the deer to eat them. If you use the animal for something more than target practice or father-son time, then very few could call you immoral, and those who do really shouldn't be offering advice to others concerning morality.



Hope that helps. I plan to go deer hunting myself within this summer or next.
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Posted May 18, 2009 - 8:19 PM:

First, I think the friend, like many modern people, are completely oblivious to the slaughter that puts meat on the table in society. What would they think if you were off to the abattoir with a big electric hammer slung over your shoulder? The question is, what happens to the turkeys? If you eat them, there should be no problem. It is just another way of getting meat, with the side benefit of bonding and maintaining essential survival skills, (for when the terminator robots or communists take over ... just kidding). If you just leave them to decay in the forest, you are part of nature's circle of life, (cue the "Lion King" music). If you stuff and mount them, you are pursing a traditional hobby. Maybe it is the method? My father used to go turkey hunting with his cousin. At first, they used shotguns. But he felt it wasn't satisfying. Sometimes you were left with a pile of bits of feathers and meat you couldn't really eat. It also spoiled dinner to be picking out some left over shot from your roast breast of turkey. They decided to be more sporting and switched to hunting arrows. At least give the turkeys a chance. However, you have to be able to deal with euthanizing a wounded turkey. I guess the point is that modern people no longer have the moral ability to survive as meat eaters.

Also, why the double standard? Do people think about the morality of setting off a bug bomb or leaving out mouse traps? They aren't going to eat them, and it probably isn't the most humane treatment.
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Posted May 18, 2009 - 8:52 PM:

While you have valid points, swestephe, I don't think moral hypocrisy is an argument specifically against the claim that hunting is ethical. I'm a vegetarian, but I use animal products, and I have killed bugs. I think it is completely morally objectionable to engage in some of my behaviors. When people confront me on it, I essentially respond with pragmatics. It's easier for me to continue my behavior than change it. Furthermore, I'm unmotivated to perform this moral action. Given that, either I'm simply incapable or I'm unmotivated. If I'm unmotivated to do something I claim is moral, either rationality alone is not sufficient for moral action, or I lack a complete moral understanding to sufficiently reject my position. One logical argument for a view is not necessarily sufficient to convince an individual to adopt it.

I'd say hunting is immoral. However, we have to decide right away. Are we going to argue about moralities existence, first of all? Given the question, I suspect we're not arguing that explicitly. If we assume it as a mutually shared view, that morality exists, do I need to appeal to your morality as independent from mine, and utilize Socratic method, or should I be providing supposedly universal arguments?

You're purposely killing an animal for the purposes of entertainment. If you want pleasure from violence, play a video game. Given the similarities between humans and animals, I'm not sure that hunting won't cause psychological damage depending on how much the person empathizes with animals. There are plenty of people who love animals and try to rationally overcome their vegetarian inclinations.

If you are confident it won't bother you to kill an animal, and you eat animals, I'm not sure my opinion. It's not a "strong" issue for me. I'm a fairly apathetic person. However, it's interesting that free range or wild game, in theory, are considered better ethical choices. Given that animals in factory farms live in horrible conditions, you'd think people would kill the ones living terrible lives first. Of course, this has economic implications.

Boycotting is an issue I haven't formulated a clear opinion on yet. I know the pragmatic rational behind supporting it, but you also shouldn't support something simply because other people will do it, either, especially giving that boycotting can exist as a gradual process.
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 1:29 AM:

There is a view that hunting is ethical but that domestically rearing animals for food is not. I think the idea is that hunting and being hunted are what most animals and birds are made for. When they can hunt us, they do so. They are not made to be cooped up, tamed etc. Animals don't enslave us and we should pay the same respect to their nature and such limited autonomy as they have. Roger Scruton is known for promoting the pro-hunting conclusion, tho' I don't know whether he uses those arguments.
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 1:52 AM:

Ratheius Netheros wrote:
While you have valid points, swestephe, I don't think moral hypocrisy is an argument specifically against the claim that hunting is ethical. I'm a vegetarian, but I use animal products, and I have killed bugs. I think it is completely morally objectionable to engage in some of my behaviors. When people confront me on it, I essentially respond with pragmatics. It's easier for me to continue my behavior than change it. Furthermore, I'm unmotivated to perform this moral action. Given that, either I'm simply incapable or I'm unmotivated. If I'm unmotivated to do something I claim is moral, either rationality alone is not sufficient for moral action, or I lack a complete moral understanding to sufficiently reject my position. One logical argument for a view is not necessarily sufficient to convince an individual to adopt it.


So, hypocrisy can be excused by laziness? I think hypocrisy demonstrates that stated values don't mesh with actual values. I decided that the implicit value of human life over other species was formed since humans were the one recording our values and self-protection is the ultimate value. Many people extend this protection into other beings based on superficial similarity. A few people object to killing a turkey, even though a huge number are slaughtered for food every day. They aren't objecting to the value of a single turkey, they are objecting to having to think about the idea of actually having to slaughter something.

There is an old story about a Chinese woman trying to get on a bus in San Francisco with 2 live chickens. The bus driver says that the bus company policy doesn't allow for the transport of live animals. So, "snap, snap", she breaks the necks of the chickens. Problem solved and she gets on the bus, while many on the bus are revolted by the idea -- something they rarely think about growing up far removed from farms. My grandmother would tell similar stories -- about how she could be taking care of a baby with one hand and take the first step in preparing a chicken for dinner, (with a quick yank to the head), with the other.

We draw a bunch of arbitrary lines, based on cultural values. I've spent a portion of my life in Asia where values are different. Some cultures eat dogs, cats, monkeys or rats. Other cultures look in horror on the idea of killing any animal, but don't have a problem eating insects or smaller fish. Why draw the line even at animals? A few cultures consider it immoral to destroy any living thing, sweeping the path in front of them to avoid stepping on an ant or wearing a face mask to prevent the unintentional consumption of microorganisms. What they consume, it is with great regret. If technology were able to create food from completely inorganic matter, they would be the first in line.

Ratheius Netheros wrote:
I'd say hunting is immoral. However, we have to decide right away. Are we going to argue about moralities existence, first of all? Given the question, I suspect we're not arguing that explicitly. If we assume it as a mutually shared view, that morality exists, do I need to appeal to your morality as independent from mine, and utilize Socratic method, or should I be providing supposedly universal arguments?


I'll assume morality exists. Look at my signature. It is just a quantification of values. It justifies the study of ethics. Even if morality is relative, values exist.

Ratheius Netheros wrote:
You're purposely killing an animal for the purposes of entertainment. If you want pleasure from violence, play a video game. Given the similarities between humans and animals, I'm not sure that hunting won't cause psychological damage depending on how much the person empathizes with animals. There are plenty of people who love animals and try to rationally overcome their vegetarian inclinations.


The purpose of hunting isn't purely for entertainment. As I listed, it is also a way of securing food and preserving survival skills. Two thinks that video games are inadequate at providing, (would you trust your expedition to a guy who only ever used a rifle in the "deer hunter" video? Maybe empathy with animals isn't necessarily a good thing if it is a struggle for survival for either species. There is another purpose to hunting -- to reduce the number of game stock that may become overpopulated since their natural predators have been destroyed. Empathy might have made us less "natural", incapable of accepting the fact that predator and prey are part of the natural cycle of life, (whether or not we were meant to be so much a part of the meat cycle).

Ratheius Netheros wrote:
If you are confident it won't bother you to kill an animal, and you eat animals, I'm not sure my opinion. It's not a "strong" issue for me. I'm a fairly apathetic person. However, it's interesting that free range or wild game, in theory, are considered better ethical choices. Given that animals in factory farms live in horrible conditions, you'd think people would kill the ones living terrible lives first. Of course, this has economic implications.


I would think that hunting is more humane toward animals, so the factories should be shutdown and it should be all free range. Let the animals have some kind of life if the quality of their lives is important. But I think it is an illusion. The animals we normally eat have drifted from their natural ancestors due to selective breeding. Cows are bread to produce more milk than they can use, to grow in ways that are not necessarily aligned with their need to survive. Domestic animals are dependent on us as much as we are on them. They can't survive in the wild any more. Humans are also so overpopulated that they can't survive on just wild game anymore.

I took a bit of a middle road. I realized that we were already stressing our resources to the maximum, causing undue suffering on human populations. I saw one solution to this problem, which was to bias ourselves toward sources of nutrition which had lower resource requirements. Cattle and pigs require a lot of resources, (land, food, medicines, care and even fuel, like oil). I thought it was more moral to prefer low resource animals, like chicken and fish, so I changed my diet to avoid large animals. I generally only eat chicken or fish when I have meat, but avoid beef. If everyone did that, (a Kantian argument), then the demand for large livestock would be reduced, land use would be reduced, (especially large tracks of land being cleared in the South American rainforest), and the world would be able to support more humans eventually. It would free up a lot of land for other agricultural purposes and could eliminate one cause of world hunger. Turkeys are also a bird that can be raised and bred without much impact on land resources, so it is preferable to hunt turkey than deer or buffalo, (except that their numbers are reaching overpopulated numbers, too). To be truly empathic toward animals, why not look at whether they would prefer overpopulation and starvation or whether they want to be hunted by some predator, any predator, and enjoy the benefits of greater resources and natural selection of the fittest? As long as humans are valued, and population grows geometrically, the future of these animals is limited anyway. Humans have no choice but to encroach on natural wildernesses and unbalance natural cycles. Whatever we do to them will not matter for much longer.

Ratheius Netheros wrote:
Boycotting is an issue I haven't formulated a clear opinion on yet. I know the pragmatic rational behind supporting it, but you also shouldn't support something simply because other people will do it, either, especially giving that boycotting can exist as a gradual process.


I had a sister-in-law who complained because the government in my little country outlawed boycotts. But every time you buy something, you are implicitly boycotting whatever you don't buy, you just aren't part of an organized group. If you select your purchases based on moral grounds, you are already supporting a boycott. If there are other reasons to prefer one product over another, (if it is cheaper or healthier, like a vegetarian diet is), then you would naturally boycott the alternatives. It is enough to be Kantian, and based your moral decision on the idea of a "universal imperative".
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 2:00 AM:

The fact is, despite the domestication of certain animals for food, humans have always rejected killing some other animals --exotic, wild, or domesticated--for sports, entertainment, and for profit. This is not a modern sentiment or belief. Throughout the history of cultures, there have always been animals excluded for hunting or killing. These animals are either called sacred, holy, or bad luck to kill.

I don't want to use the words "moral" or "immoral" to express my objection to hunting or killing certain animals, because then the debate becomes convoluted. (But if the rejection of this practice equates to being moral, so be it).

So, now, think of poachers. These people kill wild animals, protected or not, for profit. Ibex, tigers, elephants, name it, they'll kill the animals for money, and lots of it. They have buyers of animals parts, throughout the world. How about those tourist hunters who pay thousands of dollars to shoot the animals in the wild? How are they different from poachers? The volume of the hunt? It doesn't matter. I find it despicable that animals must be sacrificed like that, for tourists' entertainment, so the villages can get something in return.

The designation of some animals to be raised for food shouldn't be used an an excuse to hunt the wild animals for profit or entertainment. When everything is fair game for such purpose, we should extend the same thing to humans. Why not hunt the villagers for big game sports? Triple the money paid to them. Tell them, we will build your community center, build health clinics, even pave your roads if you let us hunt some of your people for entertainment.
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 2:09 AM:

I have a moderate position in regards to the rights of non-humans. There are certain microscopic organisms that we are apt to kill every day simply by walking. It is nigh impossible to abstain from killing living organisms. I afford moral respect to animals, at least in part, based upon their capacity, or potential capacity, to reason. The term "reason" is traditionally reserved for human beings, but it is clear to me that certain animals possess some primitive form of it, which are reflected in certain problem-solving skills and the like. Thus I would not afford the same moral respect to a beatle as I would a furry bunny, nor would I afford more moral respect to a steer than I would an orangutan. There is a difficulty here that pertains to judging an animal's capacity to reason. Is a kangaroo more rational or my pet cocker spaniel? Furthermore, what if the kangaroo was more intelligent than my dog, but he wanted to kick me in the face? Well, this is why it is prudent that we settle on some practical mean, and also take into consideration other qualifying factors.
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Posted May 19, 2009 - 2:22 AM:

Not categorically, no, but merely for sport, I think most definitely. Killing sentient beings for fun I do believe is wrong.

As for other species, like tigers, hunting, even for fun -- well, I don't consider them to be moral agents that should be held to remotely the same level of accountability as mentally healthy, adult humans. Orangutans are infamous rapists, but I don't hear people parading them out as a justification for rape.

If your life is in jeopardy, whether by the prospect of starvation, or being killed yourself by a sentient being, then I think one is justified in attempting to preserve their own life. I would agree to this when talking about other people as well, not just non-human animals -- but when the killing is unnecessary, and just for sport, then I don't see how that can be reasonably justified, unless one takes the position that no moral consideration should be allotted to non-human animals whatsoever.
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